How to Study Indian Art and Culture

UPSC Mains: How to Study Indian Art and Culture?

Civil Services Examination is an annual competitive exam conducted by the Union Public Service Commission for recruitment to the posts of IAS, IPS, IFS, and many other Central government jobs. Candidates from different streams compete with each other to bag a rank in the IAS merit list and get an opportunity to serve the nation. This exam is conducted to examine the candidate’s patience, perseverance, dedication, and determination to achieve a goal. If you want to become an IAS then besides mental preparation, you should know about some basic facts about the IAS exam. In this league, one such important thing is to read the UPSC Mains syllabus carefully and thoroughly, as the UPSC Civil Services exam has a very vast syllabus pattern.

Most of the students have a query regarding, how to study Indian Art and Culture subject for UPSC Mains, as they consider the subject lengthier and broader. This article classifies the topic of Indian art and culture and makes it easier for you to learn and answer the relatable questions in UPSC mains.

What are the topics to be covered for UPSC Mains of Art and Culture?

As per the official UPSC Mains Indian Culture syllabus, the topics will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature, and Architecture from ancient to modern times. The topic comes under UPSC Civil Services Mains General Studies-1 (Paper 2).

While on the other hand, the UPSC Indian Art syllabus will be classified under three headings:

  • Performing Arts
  • Visual Arts
  • Literary Arts

Below, you can check the complete details and topics covered under Performing Arts, Visual Arts, and Literary Arts. Read out to find more.

Performing Arts – Dance, Music, Puppets, and Theatre

Performing Arts Topics

Covered Topics

Dances of India (Classical and Regional)

Classical Dance Form:

  • Kathakali
  • Bharatnatyam
  • Kuchipudi
  • Manipuri
  • Sattriya
  • Kathak
  • Odissi

Regional Dance Form:

  • Chhau
  • Bhangra
  • Bihu
  • Garba
  • Dumhal
  • Dhamal
  • Lavani
  • ChakyarKoothu

Music of India (Hindustani, Carnatic, and Regional Music)

  • The Tata Vadya or Chordophones – Stringed instruments like Sitar, Santoor, Veena, etc.
  • The SushiraVadya or Aerophones – Wind instruments like flute, Nadaswaram, Shehnai, etc.
  • The AvanaddhaVadya or Membranophones – Percussion instruments like Tabla, Mridangam, Dholak, etc.
  • The Ghana Vadya or Idiophones – Solid instruments which do not require tuning (mostly used in tribal and folk music).


  • Traditional and Modern theatres


  • String puppets
  • Rod puppets
  • Shadow puppets
  • Glove puppets

Visual Arts – Sculpture, Architecture, and Painting

Visual Arts Topics

Topics Covered

Indian Sculpture

  • Buddhist Sculpture
  • Pre-historic
  • Modern Indian Sculpture
  • Gupta Sculpture
  • Indus Valley Civilization
  • Medieval School of Sculpture

Indian Architecture 

  • Buddhist Architecture
  • Temple Architecture
  • Pre-historic
  • Indo-Islamic Architecture
  • Indus Valley Civilization
  • Modern Architecture

Indian Painting

  • Miniature Painting
  • Wall Paintings of India
  • Modern Indian Painting

Literary Arts

The topics covered under Literary Arts as follows:

Literary Arts Topic

Topics Covered

Literary Arts

  • Ancient Indian Literature
  • Literature in Pali and Prakrit
  • Classical Sanskrit Literature
  • Medieval Literature
  • The Purana
  • Early Dravidian Literature
  • Indian Romanticism
  • Women Poets of Bhakti
  • The Emergence of Nationalism
  • Modern Indian Literature
  • Progressive Literature
  • The Literature of Nationalism, Reformism, and Revivalism
  • The Indian Literary Scene After Independence
  • Use of Mythology
  • Other Trends in Medieval Literature
  • Making of Modern Theatre
  • The Advent of Mahatma Gandhi
  • Dalit Literature
  • Search for Modernity
  • Contemporary Literature

Recommended Books for UPSC Mains Indian Art and Culture

  1. Indian Art and Culture – Nitin Singhania
  2. NIOS Indian Culture
  3. NCERT Class 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th Textbooks
  4. Previous Years Papers
  5. Spectrum for Indian Culture
  6. National Culture of India – Abid Hussain
  7. CCRT website